Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie
by Maggie Stiefvater
Having survived the summer of faerie-born peril depicted in Lament, best friends James and Dee begin a new school year at a special prep school for musically gifted kids. On some level they know, even before this sequel begins, that Thornking Ash has another reason to exist: a mission to protect young people with a sensitivity to magic; to prevent them from being snatched by the Fair Folk—who, as James and Dee know too well, don't play fair at all.
But no one—not even an English prof who used to be the Faerie Queen's consort—is prepared for the amount of danger these two, and others, are in the year James and Dee enter Thornking Ash. As a peerless bagpiper, James can hardly find a teacher to develop his skill, let alone a place to fit in. And for her own mysterious reasons, Dee is even more socially and emotionally cut off, even from the boy who loves her. Both of these problems, together with Dee's terrifying talent for drawing wild spirits to her, expose them and everyone on campus to a level of danger no one living has seen before.
For one, James has become the menu choice of a deadly muse-spirit called the leanan sidhe. Nuala's standard procedure is to offer a handsome young artist a bright, hot, fast-burning blast of creative energy, followed (by way of exchange) by an early death as she drains the life right out of him. But somehow, things are different with James. Maybe it's the fact that he has already pulled through a nearly fatal encounter with faeries and knows well enough to say No. Or maybe it's just plain love. Nuala finds herself weakening, starving herself for this boy. This could be a disaster, even for a being who must burn to ashes and be reborn every sixteen years, and who has a date with fire this very Halloween.
Meanwhile, something fishy is going on with Dee, but she isn't talking about it to anybody, especially James. It puts a real strain on their lifelong friendship, and it's one more thing for him to worry about. Whatever is going on, the new Faerie Queen seems to be planning something really bitchy for Halloween, and probably bloody into the bargain. And the Lord of the Dead has been singing at dusk nearly every night as autumn progresses, heard not only by James and Dee but by others as well. James's roommate Paul says he hears a list of people who are going to die soon, and all their names are on it. And when James finds out what he has to do to save both Nuala and Dee on the night all Faerie breaks loose, it isn't hard for him to believe what Paul says.
Here is another quick, intense novel of music, magic, teen romance, and all the reasons we should know better than to wish we could see fairies. They're dangerous, as you can learn from this book's spin on Celtic folk tales. It's a book that answers the question that might niggle at the back of your brain after you read Lament: How can someone with Dee's powers ever be safe from the deadly Fair Folk? Or maybe the question was: How could her Aunt Delia get away with her disgusting betrayal? Both of these questions, and others you haven't even thought of asking, will be answered amid this book's steadily building suspense and the emotional mangle of its climax.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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